The CON MP ” fundamentally misunderstands” Ireland’s history
There are several interesting elements of The Moggster’s latest contribution to the Brexit debate. First, he has shown that he understands that the land border in Northern Ireland is a critical issue in the Brexit negotiations. Secondly, he has shown, by harking back to the Troubles with such breezy insouciance, that he fundamentally misunderstands the history of the island of Ireland. And thirdly, in telling us that no checks on the border would leave the UK “in as bad a situation as we are already in”, he has shown that he believes that the existing system of travel between the UK and Ireland is awful, which is an extraordinary comment for a British politician to make.
At present, provisions of the Common Travel Area (CTA) allow an EU citizen to fly to Dublin, cross the land border into Northern Ireland and from there cross to the UK mainland with only a small chance of any passport checks. And this worries Jacob Rees-Mogg who calls it “a great loophole in the way people can get into the UK”.
The CTA, dating back nearly a century, and only formally enshrined in 2011, facilitates freedom of movement for British and Irish citizens between the UK, Ireland, and the Crown Dependences (Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man). While not legally binding, its various iterations have established a commitment to a joint approach on visa issues including towards third countries. Having withstood various challenges to its provisions, the CTA was and, following the more recent Anglo-Irish and Belfast Agreements, remains now an integral component of the peace process. Amongst other provisions, it removes the need for the type of border infrastructure in Northern Ireland, the absence of which, everyone with the exception it seems of Rees-Mogg, appreciates, is such an important element of modern life in Ireland.
So does the CTA mean there are no border controls between Ireland and the UK? Yes and no. If you travel to Ireland by air or sea as a UK citizen, you will be asked to produce identity documents when you get there. This need not be a passport, given CTA-mandated freedom of movement, but a document confirming eligibility to gain entry to the country. A passport, for example (there is in fact a choice of documents). The UK, meanwhile, carries out random checks on those arriving from Ireland in much the same way as they do for travellers coming off the Eurostar at St. Pancras.
The land border crossing, however, is a different matter. There are currently no controls on any of the many land border crossing points between the two countries Ireland and the UK. Rees-Mogg, in his speech, advocated the reintroduction of some kind of system in order, as he put it, to “keep an eye” on those using the land border. Quite what he believes this measure will be, short of a hard border yet sufficient to “have people inspected” goodness only knows. What the reintroduction of any kind of border infrastructure would have has been well-rehearsed on PB, not to say the subject of the odd thread header.
But more telling than his evident ignorance of or disregard for recent Irish history, is what his speech tells us about how he views British sovereignty. Never mind Brexit and trade deals, Jacob Rees-Mogg seems to think that the CTA, the system agreed between the UK and Ireland Governments nearly a hundred years ago which has been an integral part of the peace process since its inception, was and is a sovereignty concession too far.
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